This is the third of three posts in which I’m meditating on Psalm 43:3, “O send out thy light and thy truth,” which serves as Welch College’s motto. In the last post, I talked about truth. In this one I’ll be discussing light.
What good is truth if you can’t really know it and act on it because you’re so sinful and so distorted in your understanding? Well, that’s where light comes in. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit give us light so that we can see the truth for what it is. That’s why the psalmist says, Send out your light and your truth.
This is why theologians have always spoken of the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination. Not only does the Holy Spirit inspire or breathe out the words of Scripture. He also illumines our understanding so that we can see the truth that he has breathed out. This is also why salvation is so often referred to in Scripture as enlightenment (see, e.g., Hebrews 6:4).
The light is the Father and the Son and the Spirit coming to us and bringing the light of their own personal word to us, and then giving us, by the Spirit’s illumination, by the Spirit’s enlightening, hearts and minds to understand that word.
This is why Jesus is called the light of the world. And we know from Scripture that a little bit of his light goes out to everyone. In other words, God somehow tells everyone about himself and gives everyone a glimpse into reality. That’s why John in his gospel says that Jesus is the light that lights everyone who comes into the world (1:9).
Now, I like this, because I have two alma maters that have this motto—not just Welch College, but Yale University. Their motto has been, for hundreds of years, Lux et Veritas, the Latin for light and truth.
My wife Melinda and I used to go to Yale-Harvard ball games, and the Yale students would always hold up homemade signs poking fun at Harvard’s motto, which was Veritas—Truth. Those posters would say something to the effect that Veritas without Lux is not enough.
I doubt those students knew just how profound they were being. Because the signs they held up at those games get to the heart of our predicament as sinful human beings who are enmeshed in a distorted, disordered life, alienated from the life we were created to live.
Without light we can’t really understand the truth. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But without the light of God’s revelation, God’s Word illuminated by his spirit, we can’t really comprehend the truth. And we’ll always remain in bondage.
At Welch College, our purpose is to create an environment in which God’s light and truth will be on display. This will change not only the way we look at knowledge and learning—at how we understand God’s Word and God’s world, and how the two relate. It will also change the way we look at our ultimate purpose in life, at how the light of the gospel pierces our dark world and changes everything.
We know—and we want to teach and model before our students—that the light and the truth of the Lord is the only way to have liberation from the despair in which we find ourselves, which is the result of our sinfulness.
And we know—and we want to teach and model before our students—that that light and that truth will produce in them and in the world around them, as the psalmist says, deliverance from despair, divine guidance, nearness to God, forgiveness of sin, joy, praise, and hope.
With the psalmist, this will ever be our prayer: “O send out thy light and thy truth.”